Travel and Culture

The Long-Awaited Beard Update

While going through my normal Tuesday afternoon routine of looking at pictures of myself, I realized that it has been almost exactly one year since I began growing the beard. In fact, loyal followers of this blog know that regular updates on the progress of my unsightly (n. displeasing to the eye) beard were once a staple of the Journal. As I have grown more self-important, I shifted the focus to subjects that would make me sound like I knew something about international development, when, in fact, I do not. But, like the prodigal son, I will return to the low-brow self-criticism that was a hallmark of this blog one year ago. Unfortunately, not much has changed.  Below is a picture taken last December on a trip down the Mekong River in Vietnam.  I've highlighted the problems I faced then: As you can see from the picture above, I could have a rockin' beard were it not for the bald spot right in the middle of my chin.  I suppose that, by that logic, bald people assume that they could have a rockin' mane were it not for the fact that their scalp contains a circular area upon which no hair grows.  Sometimes life gives you lemons, so you make lemonade, except that lemonade has salmonella and you become sick.  This is what happened when I grew my beard.  I went to my father's office yesterday to use the fax machine.  His office manager, who I hadn't seen in a few years, pointed to my face and said "What's that?"  "A beard," I said.  "It's a bit misshapen, I know."  "Well, you know, it takes some time to grow.  How long have you had it for?" she asked.  "A year."  Awkward silence.  Onto the next subject. (more…)

Travel and Culture

Beard Difficulties

In my previous life, I worked at a job that made growing a beard difficult.  Every time I'd let it grow on vacation, I'd get close to an acceptable length, but still below the threshold of respectability.   Naturally, when I learned I'd be working with Negros Women for Tomorrow and Kiva here in the Philippines, I looked at it as a great opportunity to reinvent myself as a man with a beard.  On the street every day, people walk around with beards knowing that they are part of an exclusive fraternity, having chosen to distinguish themselves from the rest of the clean-shaven world.  On this trip, I would not pass up the opportunity. The process began on November 18th, two days before I left work.  I had two weeks before work began in the Philippines, a narrow window for a full bloom.  The above photo was taken on December 20th, showing a month of unchecked growth.  In the first two weeks, I already had a nice base, extending from my sideburns, down my cheek, and underneath my chin.  Halfway down my face, the pattern forms a right angle, before dropping precipitously past my mustache and down to the area below my chin. (more…)